Developing Alternative Research Assignments with Students and Faculty

Kathleen DeLaurenti looks at different options available through technology which can change how writing assignments are completed. She refers to a Music of the Civil War class where they completed alternative research assignments. There wasn’t a central learning portal so they developed an online bibliography where students could collect links and get feedback and also used a wiki to support the writing.

For the Civil War assignment, I focused on helping the students get started using the technology, but also on how to evaluate websites. Website evaluation was a significant part of the Worlds of Music project as well, but I also played a greater role in meeting with the students. Each group was required to sign up for a 45 minute meeting with me to make sure they were comfortable with the technology, but also to talk about the research resources and strategies they would need for the assignment. In addition to introducing them to key resources in ethnomusicology, we talked about how to narrow their topics (one wiki page in one semester certainly wouldn’t represent all of the music of China!) and how to present this material in the context of a wiki. For example, using slideshows if they built image collections rather than cluttering up their webpage with so many images it was confusing to other readers.

In full

 

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eTwinning Learning Lab

Tea describes an eTwinning learning lab that she has launched in Spanish about using Web 2.0 tools.  She demonstrates an answer garden which anyone can type in to answer the question

One of the first activities was to create an AnswerGarden with a question which Web 2.0 tools have you used before. By providing a link to your blog or any page, you get feedback and brainstorming.

In a follow up post she provides a list of a range of Web 2.0 tools that have been used in the Learning Lab including Animoto, Prezi, Vimeo.

The full list

“But I’m a Busy Person. I Don’t Have Time for Technology!”

Ginger Lewman reflects back on this statement which she uttered in 2007.  Since then she started using social networks and says that her professional life is now completely different. She was using laptops in her classroom and had to learn from one of the 5th graders in making the most of using them, until she started using online networks and communities

All of a sudden, I was bringing tools and tech knowledge to my kids! Things they’d never heard of! It was me, not the 5th grader! How? I was spending HOURS in these networks, neglecting my family, lesson plans, and probably other things I didn’t even notice. But I did notice it was taking a lot of time. Looking back, I did it simply because Kevin told me to and he was the only support (beyond the 5th grader and the other kids’ parents) I was getting in building this school.

In full

My Heresy: The More Productive Digital Peer to Peer Writing Conference

The Used Books in Class blog reflects on peer-peer writing conferences, assignments and having to peer-write on demand. They mention that this does not work in face-face work context and outline strategies such as using blogs, wikis, Google docs

Digital platforms: wikis, blogs, and Google docs, allow me the means to provide peer to peer writing conferences by removing those awkward face to face conferences that I have found so unproductive in my high school classrooms. These digital platforms also let me organize students across class periods, and if I found a teacher in a cooperating school who wanted to peer conference, the digital platforms would allow my students to conference outside the classroom

In full

Using Social Media to Engage and Improve Learning in any Medical Conference.

Christian Assad mentions that traditional conferences are difficult to digest

It is like trying to give someone a boiled chicken thigh with no salt or spices. If you are vegetarian it would equal an uncooked piece of Tempeh.  They are both good for you but good luck swallowing more than 3 pieces

He reveals examples of presentation slides he created which have a twitter link from an idea by Timo Elliott

In full

The myth of online community

There has been a lot of research looking at real and metaphorical online communities as more and more people have started using the web and interacting with others through their connections and interests. Dr Mark William Johnson examines what is a community and whether online ones really exist (beyond their software definitions)

The conflation of the word ‘community’ to create equivalence between the online community and the ‘face-to-face community’ is particularly suspect. So much more happens when people are together: the life-and-death realities of existence are encountered in direct and practically ineffable ways. Online, and the nature of ‘community’ is reduced to text messages made in a strategic way by individuals seeking to maintain their position within the ‘online’ (and face-to-face) community.
I think it’s a mistake to think of such a thing as an online ‘community’. What happens online is strictly ‘strategic’. My tweeting of this blog entry is a classic example: I seek to gain the attention of those I know, and I wouldn’t be so bothered unless I could see some strategic advantage in it for me. I don’t believe I am alone in this egomania!
A very interesting take on community was provided by Stephen Downes in the #change11 week he led : Knowledge, Learning and Community

Social Learning, Complexity and the Enterprise

by , with  Creative Commons licence 3.0/by-nc

The social learning revolution has only just begun. Corporations that understand the value of knowledge sharing, teamwork, informal learning and joint problem solving are investing heavily in collaboration technology and are reaping the early rewards. ~ Jay Cross

Social learning

Note: This is a re-post and update of a previous article, originally published as a White Paper (PDF). This web page should enable easier linking.

Why is social learning important for today’s enterprise?

George Siemens, educational technologist and researcher at Athabasca University, has succinctly explained the importance of social learning in the context of today’s workplace:

There is a growing demand for the ability to connect to others. It is with each other that we can make sense, and this is social. Organizations, in order to function, need to encourage social exchanges and social learning due to faster rates of business and technological changes. Social experience is adaptive by nature and a social learning mindset enables better feedback on environmental changes back to the organization.

The Internet has fundamentally changed how we communicate on a scale as large as the printing press or the advent of written language. Charles Jennings, of Duntroon Associates, explains why we need to move away from a focus on knowledge transfer and acquisition, an approach rooted in Plato’s academy:

We are moving to the world of the sons of Socrates, where dialogue and guidance are key competencies. It is a world where the capability to find information and turn it into knowledge at the point-of-need provides the key competitive advantage, where knowing the right people to ask the right questions of is more likely to lead to success than any amount of internally-held knowledge and skill.

Our relationship with knowledge is changing as our work becomes more intangible and complex. Notice how most value in today’s marketplace is intangible, with Google’s multi- billion dollar valuation an example of value in non-tangible processes that could be deflated with the development of a better search algorithm. Non-physical assets comprise about 80 percent of the value of Standard & Poor’s 500 US companies in leading industries.

From replaceable human resources to dynamic social groups

The manner in which we prepare people for work is based on the Taylorist perspective that there is only one way to do a job and that the person doing the work needs to conform to job requirements [F.W. Taylor, The Principles of Scientific Management, 1911]. Individual training, the core of corporate learning and development, is based on the premise that jobs are constant and those who fill them are interchangeable.

However, when you look at the modern organization, it is moving to a model of constant change, whether through mergers and acquisitions or as quick-start web-enabled networks. For the human resources department, the question becomes one of preparing people for jobs that don’t even exist. For example, the role of online community manager, a fast-growing field today, barely existed five years ago. Individual training for job preparation requires a stable work environment, a luxury no one has any more.

A collective, social learning approach, on the other hand, takes the perspective that learning and work happen as groups and how the group is connected (the network) is more important than any individual node within it.

MIT’s Peter Senge has made some important clarifications on terms we often use in looking at work, job classifications and training to support them.

Knowledge: the capacity for effective action. “Know how” is the only aspect of knowledge that really matters in life.

Practitioner: someone who is accountable for producing results.

Learning may be an individual activity but if it remains within the individual it is of no value whatsoever to the organization. Acting on knowledge, as a practitioner (work performance) is all that matters. So why are organizations in the individual learning (training) business anyway? Individuals should be directing their own learning. Organizations should focus on results.

Individual learning in organizations is basically irrelevant because work is almost never done by one person. All organizational value is created by teams and networks. Furthermore, learning may be generated in teams but even this type of knowledge comes and goes. Learning really spreads through social networks. Social networks are the primary conduit for effective organizational performance. Blocking, or circumventing, social networks slows learning, reduces effectiveness and may in the end kill the organization.

Social Networking In Schools: Educators Debate The Merits Of Technology In Classrooms

from The Huffington Post

Some critics are calling for social networking to be removed from classrooms because of privacy, bullying, harassment and inappropriate materials. The article looks at a variety of studies which are finding positive benefits in using social software making learning more relevant and connected. It looks at some initiatives which are trying to create safer environments and communities

The comments on the post feature different perspectives from students, teachers, IT / technologists working in education and others interested with some in favour of using social software, some looking at concerns relating to the issues above.

In full

The Ethics of Mobile Learning – Troubling and Complex

By John Traxler, Professor of Mobile Learning and Director of the Learning Lab at the University of Wolverhampton, England, in a guest post for Mobile Active

John Traxler reviews the development of mobile learning, take up and engagement within communities and questions whether educators and institutions know what is best for learners and how they might learn using mobile devices, services and connectivity:

http://www.mobileactive.org/ethics-mobile-learning